At a special called joint meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, the Dawsonville City Council and the Dawson County Board of Commissioners discussed SPLOST 7, how the funds will be divided between the two entities and what projects the money will be allocated for.
SPLOST, or Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax, is a tax approved by voters that funds projects in both the city and the county. According to city and county officials, over 80 percent of the money generated through SPLOST comes from people who don’t live within Dawson County who come to visit the county’s businesses, such as the outlet mall.
The current SPLOST budget, SPLOST 6, will expire on June 30, 2021, so SPLOST 7 would typically start the next day, officials said.
“SPLOST 7, if approved by the voters, would begin July 1, 2021,” Dawson County Board of Commissioners Chairman Billy Thurmond said. “The proposed SPLOST 7 is a $60 million 6-year SPLOST.”
At the meeting, representatives from both the city and the county read off their lists of the projects that they would like to allocate funds from SPLOST 7 towards.
The split of the current SPLOST is 85 percent to the county and 15 percent to the city, but city officials said that they would like to increase their cut of the funds.
Dawsonville City Manager Bob Bolz said that the city’s project list includes several road and sidewalk improvement projects, water and sewer projects, the implementation of phases 3 and 4 of Main Street Park, downtown revitalization, city facilities maintenance and public works facilities and equipment, for a total of about $10.2 million, or about 17 percent of the total projected $60 million.
Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason said that SPLOST 7 is especially important to the city because the city doesn’t levy property taxes, so the extra funding from SPLOST allows the city to complete projects without having to tax its citizens more.
“It’s very important for the city to have SPLOST because we don’t have a property tax; all property tax we collect in the city goes to the county for their use,” Eason said. “We want to continue not to have a property tax for the city, so SPLOST is extremely important to us as well as our public safety for our community.”
Dawson County Public Works Director David McKee presented the county’s list of proposed projects, which included a large emphasis on public safety and health.
The county’s potential projects include 3 new fire engines, 5 new ambulances, a new ladder truck and equipment, construction of a new emergency operations and 911 center, a new emergency radio system, training burn building replacement, courthouse security upgrades, sheriff’s office and public works vehicles, a new roof on the law enforcement center, a new public health facility and several upgrades to county parks, including new playgrounds, and a special needs baseball and softball field.
“Between our emergency services and our sheriff’s department… as well as a new public health building for our health department, if you add all that together over 60 percent of the county’s list is toward public safety and public health for the benefit of our citizens that live in Dawson County and in the City of Dawsonville,” Thurmond said.
Eason added that while both the city and the county have important individual projects, they are willing to work together on the most important ones that will benefit the safety of the whole community.
“There are a lot of things that we could probably do with our SPLOST proceeds to enhance some of the services that are not currently available to city residents or county residents,” Eason said. “What we wanna do is try to work together with the County Board of Commissioners to come up with a solution that will work for everybody.”
City and county representatives will continue to meet and discuss SPLOST 7 to decide the split and projects before citizens vote on it in March.
“We’re still working on the intergovernmental agreement and the allocation split and those things with the city and the county, so we’ll continue working on that because we do wanna get this thing wrapped up as soon as possible,” Thurmond said. “We wanna get this put together where citizens can see it and understand it and make an educated vote when it comes time to vote on it on March 16.”